Euratom Research and Training Programme (EURATOM) logo

Co-funded European partnership for research in nuclear materials
Deadline: Nov 8, 2023  
- 222 days

 Industrial Manufacturing
 Education and Training
 Horizon Europe


In line with the objectives of the Nuclear Safety Directive, this European partnership should contribute to the safe operation of existing and future advanced nuclear installations, including small modular reactors. Implementation of the partnership on nuclear materials will improve interaction and cross-fertilisation between national players in the relevant key areas and ensure improved knowledge management at European and Member State level.

Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  1. Boost knowledge about the durability of the main structural materials used in the nuclear island, such as low alloy, austenitic and ferritic-martensitic steels, as well as other metallic alloys and materials for fuel elements and fuel. This helps ensure that existing and future nuclear plants are operated safely in the long term.
  2. Improve knowledge about advanced nuclear fuels with optimised performance for different reactor cores, increased safety and lower spent fuel long-term toxicity.
  3. Develop and qualify materials and materials solutions (e.g. coatings) for core applications, advanced fuel elements, including enhanced accident tolerant fuels and/or enhanced performance fuels.
  4. Improve knowledge about the degradation of secondary structural materials such as concrete or polymers that are subjected to degrading conditions typical for nuclear installations.
  5. Improve knowledge about how nuclear materials behave at high temperatures and in conditions of strong degradation (e.g. high irradiation doses, strong corrosive environment), typical in advanced nuclear systems.
  6. Develop methodologies for identifying innovative materials solutions that are applicable to both nuclear fission and fusion domains.
  7. Improve research collaboration on materials of common interest with other domains beyond nuclear; this is needed to improve the efficiency of other energy generating technologies (e.g. increased working temperatures of electricity generating turbines) or advanced ones (e.g. concentrated solar power).
  8. Improve knowledge about advanced nuclear fuels with optimised performance for different reactor cores, increased safety and lower spent fuel long-term toxicity. Determine quality assured data like nuclear cross sections with low uncertainties.
  9. Further develop and optimise modern non-destructive examination techniques needed for the accurate health monitoring of relevant structures during operation, including online and automated strategies.
  10. Develop and improve predictive methodologies for materials behaviour that should be applicable under an increasingly wide range of operational conditions and help transfer experimental results achieved under different irradiation conditions (for example ion irradiation vs neutron irradiation).
  11. Develop enhanced standardised experimental techniques necessary to streamline experimental approaches for irradiated materials based on a traceability chain that provides access to valid uncertainties, producing nuclear materials databases that respond to FAIR principles.
  12. Better understand the transferability of experimental results achieved by different irradiation techniques (for example ion irradiation vs neutron irradiation).
  13. Improve nuclear data/reference data, design codes and standards relevant for nuclear materials and fuel performance codes, developed in close agreement with standardisation bodies and in interaction with nuclear regulators and their technical support organisations.
  14. Improve the transfer of knowledge within the respective research community to European industry and nuclear regulators.
  15. Improve the quality of modern education methods and the training of scientists and nuclear industry specialists in connection with nuclear materials.
  16. Consolidate, at European level, the exploitation of unique relevant experimental facilities and infrastructures aimed at rationalising their use and avoiding the unnecessary repetition and duplication of costly experiments.

By achieving these outcomes, a European partnership on nuclear materials is expected to have the following impacts:

  1. Structured consolidation of the European research community on nuclear materials.
  2. Contribute to maintaining the high level of safety of nuclear installations for current and future fleets, in full compliance with relevant European regulations.
  3. Develop scientific knowledge and technological expertise applicable to the nuclear materials domain, including the coordinated use of infrastructures for materials qualification with sustainable quality assurance, and the production of reliable nuclear databases that meet FAIR principles[1].
  4. Improved interaction of the nuclear materials research community with European nuclear regulatory bodies and their technical support organisations.
  5. Improved exchange of knowledge across the respective research communities, including for example fusion and non-nuclear energy generating technologies.
  6. Improved quality of education and training of nuclear materials specialists, achieved in a coordinated manner across the EU in collaboration with existing nuclear education networks.

These impacts are expected to be achieved in a concerted manner across EU Member States and Associated Countries to the Euratom Programme 2021-2025 and would be otherwise difficult to achieve through national programmes.


Materials science is one of the main drivers for technological development and industrial innovation. In the nuclear domain, materials research plays a crucial role in improving the safety, efficiency and economy of nuclear installations. It supports technological and safety improvements in existing nuclear reactors and in new builds, and enables the development of advanced reactor concepts, including small modular reactors.

It covers several classes of materials of various types. This includes those essential to nuclear reactors – ranging from metallic alloys, ceramics and concrete to fuel cladding and fuels, substances for neutron control and even polymers. Innovative solutions for the development, manufacturing and qualification of nuclear materials are a must if the European nuclear sector is to maintain the highest safety standards and, at the same time, be competitive with other energy generating technologies as well as with a range of international players in this domain.

This action should contribute significantly to the development of materials for ensuring the highest safety standards and reducing the time-to-market for the various types of materials and related advanced manufacturing techniques. This is thanks to a shift from the traditional ‘observe and qualify’ materials science approach to the modern ‘design and control’ one. An accurate materials health monitoring method to be applied during the operation is needed, as well as advanced predictive methodologies that blend modern digital techniques. Physics-based models should also be developed.

The research effort in the nuclear materials area is resource-intensive and extremely costly. Only a fully integrated research programme that makes use of the assets of laboratories and industries all over Europe can be able to properly handle R&D in this domain.

Several European countries support nuclear materials research as part of their national research programmes. To avoid duplication and improve complementarity, the consolidation of R&I efforts in Europe in the nuclear materials domain is needed as a means to gather the necessary dedicated resources and pursue a common research agenda.

As an exploratory phase leading to a possible European partnership on nuclear materials, a special action was launched in the Euratom Work Programme 2019-2020[2], namely ‘NFRP-08: Towards joint European effort in area of nuclear materials’.

As a result of a competitive call, the Commission decided to support the project ‘Organisation of the European Research Community on Nuclear Materials’ (899997 ORIENT-NM)[3]. Its main goals are to develop a vision and convincing strategic research agenda for a possible partnership on nuclear materials consistent with national programmes and industrial needs, as well as draw up efficient governance of this partnership and define its interaction with external stakeholders. The ORIENT-NM project is expected to deliver the above-mentioned strategic documents before the launch of a possible partnership on nuclear materials in the current work programme[4].

The scope of a partnership on nuclear materials should cover the research interests of all Member States and Associated Countries dealing with nuclear materials research and not be limited to nuclear power generating countries.

The proposal should also pay due consideration to the criteria for selecting and implementing European partnerships, their monitoring, evaluation, phasing out or renewal as set out in Annex III of the Horizon Europe Regulation[5].

The aim of this action is to launch a co-funded European partnership, bringing together European entities that have a national mandate for research in materials science and deal with nuclear materials. They are willing to pool their resources in a concerted manner in order to achieve critical mass and improve safety as well as efficiency and effectiveness in implementing respective materials solutions in the nuclear domain across Europe.

The consortium should be composed of nationally mandated actors for financing and/or implementing R&I on nuclear materials. The proposed partnership should follow on from the exploratory activities carried out by the ORIENT-NM project, with extensive consultation of Member States’ national agencies and the research community. Nuclear regulatory bodies and their technical support organisations are expected to interact with the partnership, providing strategic orientations on the work to be accomplished, without compromising their independence. In the case of Member States where organisations act both as technical support organisations and as independent research organisations, these organisations are considered eligible for participation, normally as mandated actors or affiliated entities.

Proposals should provide for the establishment of an innovation group formed by members that belong to industrial bodies and other relevant institutions, and have expertise in innovation and result exploitation. Its role should be clearly defined. An independent international scientific advisory board established by the partnership would be seen as beneficial for the partnership’s activities.

The vision, strategic research agenda and other strategic documents produced by the ORIENT-NM project should form an essential basis for defining the scientific orientation, structure and governance of the partnership on nuclear materials, in full compliance with the rules laid down in the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2021-2025[6] and in Regulation (EU) 2021/695 on Horizon Europe7.

The partnership should be goal-oriented, with well-defined major milestones to enable proper monitoring. Its scope should include all the scientific and technical areas as well as all the horizontal activities related to knowledge management described above (also defined by the ORIENT-NM project results).

Research lines should be proposed with specific projects covering the scientific and technical priorities identified in the strategic research agenda. Projects should cover areas of interest for the relevant national actors and should allow new partners to be included later on whenever relevant. The projects should be defined by technical scope and should not be reserved for just one type of participant.

An internal governance structure should be established in the consortium agreement. It should include an executive board and a management support office with a strategic role in ensuring that the partnership is implemented and day-to-day activities are managed. An appropriate means of allocation of project tasks and funding among the partners will need to be revised on a yearly basis. Emerging research priorities relevant for the Euratom programme should be taken into account during this yearly revision of the partnership.

This action aims at establishing a partnership that implements research based on proposed research lines and/or through calls for proposals. The partnership should cover all relevant activities: common research and strategic studies, the sharing of facilities, knowledge management, mobility and training of researchers, in collaboration and complementarity with existing initiatives dedicated to coordinating and managing the use of existing nuclear materials research infrastructures.

To maximise knowledge management and especially the impact on smaller and less advanced national programmes, a set of horizontal activities on knowledge transfer and on education and training have to be designed and implemented within the partnership. The partnership should be open to international R&D cooperation, with the managers expected to represent it in areas of competence in international events and forums.

Subject to adoption by the Council of a regulation establishing the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2026-2027 and adoption of the Euratom Work Programme 2026-2027, the Commission envisages providing the partnership with top-up funding, which will be determined later.

Commitments by the partners on their financial and/or in-kind contributions to the European partnership are expected to be provided in the governance structure, the joint calls and other dedicated implementation actions and efforts for national coordination. Proposals should pool the necessary financial and/or in-kind resources from the participating national (or regional) research programmes with a view to implementing joint research activities based on proposed research lines and/or joint calls for transnational proposals resulting in grants to third parties.




[4] The strategic research area is expected to be published at

[5]Regulation (EU) 2021/695 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 April 2021 establishing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, laying down its rules for participation and dissemination, and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1290/2013 and (EU) No 1291/2013, OJ L 170, 12.5.2021, p. 1–68.


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